Are you stuck living in the past? How can you know? By stuck in the past, of course, this doesn’t mean literally being stuck in the past like in the TV show, Outlander, when the main protagonist, Claire, accidentally travels back in time to 1743 Scotland and gets stuck there. In this context, it means that you have been living in the past, mentally and emotionally, and cannot let go of things that happened long ago in order to be happy in the present. This could be things from the recent past, say days, weeks, months, or a year ago, or those that happened a very long time ago, like in your childhood or other early years.

Our past influences our present lives significantly, and not always in a good way. Regardless of whether or not you had a terrible or happy one, if you can’t let go of your past, you might get stuck in life, thus affecting your happiness and sense of fulfillment in your present. Constantly living in the past could also affect your professional and personal relationships negatively.

In this post, we shall discuss how to recognize the signs you are stuck in the past, why it happens, and how to let go of the past to live in the present.

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10 Signs You Are Stuck in The Past

  1. You feel nostalgic and keep reminiscing about how things used to be and wish they were still the same or that you could go back to those moments
  2. You can’t move on from past mistakes and always blame yourself
  3. You are bitter and holding on to grudges
  4. Have regrets and wish you had done things differently
  5. You have been holding on to old items even when they are broken or spoilt
  6. You keep reliving traumatic moments from your past
  7. Change terrifies you
  8. You have no hopes or plans for the future
  9. You constantly compare everything in your present to something in the past or things you have lost
  10. Low self-esteem and self-defeating beliefs that were planted during your childhood.

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7 Reasons Why You Are Stuck in The Past

  • Traumatic events in your past

If you had undergone a traumatic moment in your past, such as abuse or bullying, it could continue to haunt you and affect your present life since you might get stuck reliving those moments over and over.

The same thing could happen if you keep reliving embarrassing moments from your past when the memories resurface and make you cringe at your past actions.

READ ALSO: How to Stop Reliving Embarrassing Moments and Obsessing over Past Mistakes

  • You are holding on to things and people from your past

Sentimental attachment to things and people can be the reason you are stuck in the past. For instance, you could still be holding on to an ex emotionally, hoping they will return, or keeping a dead loved one’s possessions, which could make it harder for you to move on.

  • You have mental health issues

Repetitive thinking about past events, also called rumination, is associated with depression. According to studies, this is one of the reasons why people get stuck in the past because it reminds them of happier times, the things they have lost, and makes them relive traumatic moments in their lives. All this could suck you deeper into depression or even lead to suicidal thoughts.

  • You fear change

Resistance to change, especially as you grow older, is one of the reasons you can become stuck in the past because you want things to stay the way they have always been.

You are in your comfort zone, and letting go of the past to embrace change would mean you have to face new challenges and reality, which could be scary.

READ ALSO: Afraid of Aging? How to Be Okay with Getting Older

  • You blame yourself for past mistakes

When you make a mistake that you never atoned for (sometimes even if you did) it could continue haunting you even later in life and cause you to be stuck living in the past. Blaming yourself won’t do you any good and will just hold you back and hinder your growth.

READ ALSO: Stop Blaming Yourself and Find Inner Peace

  • Problems in your present

The reason you might be feeling nostalgic and prefer living in the past to your present could be because things aren’t going well for you currently, whether financially, career-wise, or in your relationships.

You might get stuck in the past because you are busy reminiscing about your past glory or happier times to escape your current reality.

  • You are playing the blame game

Sometimes, if you are not blaming yourself for your mistakes, you are probably blaming anyone and anything else for your misfortunes. But, unfortunately, playing the blame game could be why you are stuck in the past and can’t move on.

This happens to people who don’t admit their mistakes or their responsibility for how they turned out. They blame their parents, circumstances, or the people they were surrounded with when growing up and play the victim to anything else, just so they don’t feel responsible for how they are today.

But as an adult, playing the blame game will only result in your getting stuck in the past. You are the only one responsible for your life and any decisions you make now.

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How to Let Go of The Past and Move on

Now that you know the signs to look for to know if you are stuck in the past and why it happens, it is time to let go of the past and live in the present. Here is how to let go of the past to be happy with your life as it is;

  1. Own up to your mistakes and forgive yourself

Everyone has done things they aren’t proud of at some point in their lives. Having the courage to own up to your past mistakes is one way to release yourself from the past and move on. Though there might be consequences, it is better than living with a guilty conscience for not coming clean or playing the victim of circumstances and blaming others for your actions.

If the reason why you are stuck in the past is that you are blaming yourself for past mistakes, learn to forgive yourself as well in order to let go of the past.

READ ALSO: 12 Easy Ways to Get Your Shit Together Starting Now

  1. Get rid of old stuff

One of the main reasons you could get stuck in the past is because you are still holding on to stuff from that time of your life. Though you might feel a sense of sentimental attachment to them, these things from your past might be what is holding you back and keeping you stuck in life.

Start a new life with a clean slate and let go of the past by getting rid of the things that constantly remind you of it. Out of sight, out of mind.

  1. Let go of grudges

Try to make amends with those you may have hurt and those that hurt you. Wanting revenge or karma to strike them are signs you are stuck in the past and haven’t moved on from what they did to you.

One way to let go of the past and start living in the present is by accepting that the people who hurt you might not apologize for their actions and that karma might not hit them in your lifetime.

For your peace of mind and so you can start healing, forgive them anyway. Holding on to grudges often hurts us more than the person who caused it, and making peace with your past could give you the closure you need to get unstuck and stop living in the past.

  1. Practice gratitude

Wishing for the things you no longer have is one of the signs you are stuck in your past. Instead, you should focus on the things you currently have and be grateful for them. And there is so much to be grateful for. Get a gratitude journal where you can be noting down the things you are thankful for every day and learn to appreciate the small things in life.

Accept that whatever happened has already happened, and you can’t change the past. All you can do is learn to forgive yourself and embrace who you are now and what you have because this is your reality.

READ ALSO: 21 Things to Be Thankful for and Why

  1. Learn to live in the present

To stop living in the past and let go, you have to find ways to ground yourself in the present. Practice mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga whenever you feel like you are getting sucked down the rabbit hole of the past. These practices will keep you calm and focused on the present moment.

Another way to get unstuck from the past and live in the present is to immerse yourself fully in whatever actions you are doing to keep your mind from wandering.

READ ALSO: How to Think Positive Thoughts When Everything Feels Negative

  1. Seek help

Constant negative thinking about traumatic events or embarrassing moments that happened in the past could be indicating a mental health issue. This obsessive thinking is called rumination, and it can lead to depression and anxiety.

If you find yourself trapped in repetitive negative thought patterns and reliving incidences from your past, it would be best to talk to a friend, family member, or a therapist for professional help.

Final Thoughts

It is okay to revisit your past every once in a while. After all, it is what made you who you are today. But even though it might feel comfortable, safe, and predictable, living in the past is not healthy.

Being stuck in the past will affect your present life negatively, and while letting go is possible, it is not easy. From the above, you now know the signs to look out for to know if you are stuck in your past, why you could be living in the past, and how to let go and start living in the present.


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Last Updated on October 10, 2022

11 thoughts on “10 Signs You Are Stuck in The Past, Why It Happens, and How to Let Go

  1. This is a very educative post and helpful to many. I could spit several signs on my end that I need to work on. Your explanations are well detailed. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Very well explained Sheri. Many of us love being in the past. The ‘ this is the way it has always worked attitude’ gers so deep rooted in the mind that accepting the new , facing the truth at times becomes so very difficult.
    Stay blessed always.
    🙏🌹🌹

    1. And yet change is the only constant in life so we are just delaying the inevitable. Thank you so much for reading, Krish. Stay blessed as well🙏

  3. Too many of these signs ring true to me 😂 definitely need to work on forgiving myself and holding grudges but I’m working on it!

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